A majority of City of North Vancouver councillors declined to support a ban on corporate and union campaign donations at the municipal level Monday.
With the Union of B.C. Municipalities set to tackle the issue next week, Coun. Don Bell called on his colleagues to champion a UBCM motion to follow the provincial government’s lead on electoral finance reform.
“I think if it applies at the federal and provincial level, it should apply at the municipal level as well,” Bell said. “I feel it strengthens it . . . to be able to say that city council has voted in favour of it.”
Bell’s motion is problematic, countered Coun. Craig Keating, who noted councillors can still vote any way they choose at the upcoming UBCM convention. While most people want cash out of politics, Keating reminded the gallery that democracy and public debate are served by candidates’ ability to represent themselves in public.
Bell’s motion is inconsistent but necessary, according to Coun. Rod Clark. “If ever there was a motion which applied to the City of North Vancouver, it is this one. It’s time we quit being the Wild West out in B.C. and we can start right here.”
Both Clark and Keating discussed political donations from the 2014 municipal election.
Clark said it was “problematic” developers contributed to the election campaigns of Mayor Darrell Mussatto as well as Couns. Keating, Linda Buchanan and Holly Back.
Mussatto spent $74,051 after receiving donations from developers, large and small businesses and unions.
Keating referred to the amount spent by defeated mayoralty candidate Kerry Morris, who spent $79,226 in his campaign, funding most of it himself. “Language that does not talk about campaign donation limits is, I think to my mind, somewhat deficient,” Keating said.
Keating also noted the province passed legislation in 2016 that caps anonymous donations at $50 and allows for political donations to be made by individuals, corporations, unions, non-profits and other organizations.
Mussatto reminded the gallery that while council can “pass all the motions we want,” they are ultimately bound by provincial legislation.
Bell’s motion was defeated 4-3 with Mussatto, Keating, Buchanan and Back voting against it.
Both North Vancouver-Seymour MLA Jane Thornthwaite and West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan favoured new rules for municipal elections.
“All of the legitimate issues apply with equal force to major municipalities,” Sultan said.
The new rules should be in place in time for the 2018 municipal elections, according to Integrity BC executive director Dermod Travis.
“There’s no legislative reason that they can’t,” he said.
– with files from Jane Seyd